Traveling with Language Barriers

Featured in "Traveling with a Language BArrier" by Jaya Travel & Tours, this image shows a mean wearing a turban and holding up a sign in a foreign language.

Many travelers change their plans and miss out on life-changing vacations because of a language barrier. It’s understandable that traveling to a place with zero knowledge of the local tongue can be an inconvenience and a source of anxiety. However, there are thousands of languages in this world and its not possible to be fluent in each of them. Although these barriers can pose a problem while traveling, there are many ways to overcome this issue. To help ease travel anxiety, Jaya Travel is sharing the best methods to help you tackle language barriers while traveling. 

Table of Contents

How To Overcome Language Barriers

Use Body Language

Featured in "Traveling with a language barrier" by Jaya Travel & Tours, this image shows people on vacation in a bar using hand gestures to order food

Nonverbal cues play an important part in communication, whether or not you’re not aware of the local language. When words fail us, it’s up to body language to step in and salvage the moment. Understanding how to interact nonverbally is an art in and of itself.  

When speaking with persons from various linguistic backgrounds, a welcoming smile and eye contact can go a long way. There are also gestures known universally including nodding, pointing, and shaking hands. Similarly, facial expressions can be used to convey emotions like gratitude, empathy, or understanding. 

It’s also worth noting that some cultures take offense to certain mannerisms, even if they’re normal in your home country. A thumbs-up, for example, can be a kind gesture in India. However, several Middle Eastern countries consider this a sign of disrespect. Before you go, study local practices and customs. 

Learn Key Phrases

Featured in the Jaya Travel & Tours article "Traveling with Language Barriers", this image shows street graffiti in a different language.

Before getting to the new destination, it’s an excellent plan to learn a few key things in the native language. You won’t be proficient — all you need is to understand the common words and phrases. Don’t worry about remembering entire sentences and statements, a friendly “hello” can often break the ice and indicate that you aren’t a native speaker.

So that you manage daily interactions with ease, try remembering a few phrases such as:  

  • Hello/goodbye 
  • Yes/no 
  • Please/thank you 
  • Sorry/excuse me 
  • I need your help 
  • Hotel 
  • Taxi 
  • Bathroom 
  • Where/what/how/when 

Use Language Apps

Featured in "Traveling with Language Barriers" by jaya Travel & Tours, this image shows a hand holding out a cellphone with a language learning app open.

Using online language courses is ideal, especially if you intend to stay in one location for an extended time. Short courses expose you to the foreign language you want to learn, often pre-selecting common words and phrases that are useful for foreigners. 

Duolingo is an exciting, easy, and inexpensive method for mastering a new tongue. The program allows you to learn more than thirty-five languages. It’s a well-structured learning approach that includes listening exercises and several questions to test you on new knowledge. 

Google Translate is also a free tried-and-true classic. It provides interpretations in more than 100 languages and includes features such as image translation and offline usage. It also allows text-to-speech, so you can play the exact translation of longer sentences to anyone around you.  

Bring A Phrasebook

Featured in Jaya Travel & Tours blog "traveling with language barriers" this image shows the page of a dictionary in a different language.

Understanding a foreign language in a short period of time might be difficult. While apps and online courses are amazing, having a backup plan is always a smart idea. When your cell phone’s battery drains or you’re off the grid, a handy phrasebook of the language of your destination can help in a pinch. For example, if you need immediate medical assistance and your phone is out of data, a physical copy can save your life. 

Furthermore, skimming over a phrasebook is a terrific icebreaker with native people. They may be more than willing to assist you in practicing their language – some people may even ask you to help them practice your native tongue! 

Book Your Vacation with Jaya Travel & Tours!

As a traveler, you have a unique opportunity to explore the world, foster meaningful relationships, and break down linguistic barriers in creative and enjoyable ways. Don’t allow the fear of embarrassment or concerns about inconveniencing others to deter you from venturing out into the world. While the prospect of encountering a language barrier may initially be daunting, it can ultimately transform into a memorable and enriching experience. If you need assistance with booking flights, hotels, tours, and more, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jaya Travel & Tours for expert guidance. 

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